Preschool and Homeschool Plans

We’ve been able to just jump right in to school this year. Hula Girl is such an eager student; memorization and absorption of new material comes so naturally to her. I’m always a bit wary of doing too much too soon with her; after all, she is only four years old and I know that at this point in her life, free play should be her #1 daily activity. However, she just adores preschool time and asks for it even on weekends. Little Man even gets to participate, and he so enjoys it! Soon he will have his own curriculum to work through. I’m so excited to teach both of them every day.

Here’s a general rundown of what our preschool time looks like each day:

  • 15 minutes- Reading and dancing or doing finger plays or clapping along to children’s songs and nursery rhymes from What your Preschooler Needs to Know (Little Man joins us for this part, because it’s fun and he’s going to start the activity book in August!)
  • 5 minutes- Copywork- Hula Girl copies down short passages from our morning’s devotion or the week’s nonfiction reading in her copywork notebook
  • 15 minutes- Math- We are using the Math-U-See Primer Level to introduce math concepts. We do about 5 minutes of direct instruction on the day’s topic, and then she takes 10 or so minutes to complete the accompanying worksheet.
  • 5 minutes- Core Knowledge Activity Book 2– This book is full of short, fun activities to reinforce literacy, writing, math, and other subject areas appropriate for preschoolers. Hula Girl already completed the first book last year.
  • 10 minutes- Reading- Hula Girl is currently teaching herself to read the Dick and Jane books. We sit down for a few minutes at the end of preschool and she attempts to read one chapter. I help her sound out words she’s unfamiliar with and then she reads through the story two or three more times, until she feels confident that she can read it well. She takes several breaks to practice reading that story throughout the day, and when Jonathan comes home, she reads the new chapter to him- always flawlessly.
  • *10 minutes- Nature Study- Hula Girl observes her science projects or something out in nature (like a bird sitting on top of our truck) and sketches her observations in her sketchbook. I help her with labeling and write the date, her title, and what observations she wishes to include. Little Man sketches in his notebook as well; however, his sketches tend to resemble Morse code. 😉
  • *10 minutes- History, Science, Music, or Art- We read a short excerpt, listen to a song, or view a piece of art and discuss. Oftentimes we will then take the next thirty minutes or so to create something inspired by the historical event, scientific information, composition, or artwork. These things might include hats like Abraham Lincoln wore, diagrams of our vascular system, choreography to complement the music, or simple art projects which resemble the inspiration.

*Nature study, history, science, music, and art do not happen daily. When we drop “reading” as a subject (when she’s fluently reading without much assistance), she will be using reading to access all her history, science, music, and art information on a daily basis.

So far, this system is really working well for us. Hula Girl’s favorites are math and nature study, and she really enjoys reading (I’m not sure how she couldn’t like reading as we’ve spent approximately 25% of her life snuggled up together reading books). Next week, I plan to move Little Man’s roomtime to the mornings right after breakfast, so Hula Girl and I can work on preschool uninterrupted. It’s difficult and a bit silly to try to plan extra activities to keep him occupied during this time as he only wants to be doing exactly what his big sister is doing. She, being the perfectionist she is, can’t handle his stray pencil marks on the corners of her papers and it’s really hard to explain place value when every other word out of my mouth is “Stop!”

We have an opportunity coming up for next year to place Hula Girl in a homeschool program at a charter school in Colorado Springs. She would attend school once a week and they would focus more on the art/music/PE stuff while also emphasizing basic literacy skills. Honestly, I feel like her greatest benefit would be improving her social skills. She has been really outgoing lately and has wanted to talk to and play with every single child she meets. I am still trying to work through whether or not it’s justified to commit to driving an hour one way every single week just so she can “do school” when our intention all along has been to homeschool. I feel like we can probably find her some groups of friends around here with less of a commute.

Another issue is that she will be a new five at the start of the school year and although she is quite mature for her age intellectually, she is just developing some social skills other children developed a while ago. Her very shy nature kept her quite isolated from other children for several years. Her recent outgoing behavior has been wonderful but also illuminating in some areas. We discuss many interactions I observe and I am working to teach her to act graciously and sensitively to other children. She catches on quickly, which is a relief!

And so we will see how things go over the next few months. Regardless of whether we do the charter school program, we will definitely be starting the Core Knowledge Kindergarten Sequence with Hula Girl and the Core Knowledge Preschool Activity Book 1 with Little Man this summer. I love Core Knowledge as a teacher because it allows me to draw from many outside sources to create lessons uniquely meaningful to my children while giving me a general understanding of what material to cover in each year. I plan to marry the Core Knowledge curriculum and the Charlotte Mason method. With this in mind, I plan to read all the books from the Ambleside Online Curriculum each year just because we have plenty of time and my kids love to read!

Keeping Boredom at Bay

It’s been snowing for three days straight, and our forecast calls for snow for the next four days as well! I’m a person who loves the snow, and this recent streak of snow upon snow upon snow (I mean, for Pete’s sake! It’s snowing right now even though the sun’s out!) has been so fun to see. Every time I look out, it’s snowing! Jonathan and I have been talking about someday relocating to New England so we can get EVEN MORE snow. But for now, I think we’re good.

Thing is, when it snows, the kids get a bit… stir crazy. I’m not a wimp about getting them all gussied up in their finest snow attire- layers upon layers of fleece and mittens and ski goggles and thermal underwear and socks- but there’s really a limit to the amount of time they can spend outdoors with their faces planted in the snow (they graze on it like horses put out to pasture) in freezing cold temperatures. That limit is around 10 minutes for Little Man and 30 for Hula Girl. We repeat the ritual of dressing up, trekking outdoors, and peeling off the snow-covered garments at least twice daily. Fortunately we have a separate entrance to the garage from the backyard so the kids can drop all the snow in there rather than in my kitchen. But seriously. 15 minutes to dress them, 10 minutes (or less!) outside, 5 minutes of them whining and crying while undressing them, and WHEW, I am wiped out. And then they want hot chocolate.

Speaking of hot chocolate, I can’t have any right now. And that’s okay. Jonathan and I are doing the Daniel Fast for Lent and it’s amazing to see how quickly our bodies have broken the habit of eating sugar and other non-fruit, non-veggie, non-whole grain foods. The first week was pretty hard, and cravings were abundant. I would have paid $20 for a Twix, and I don’t even eat Twix normally. My current craving is for anything coconut, which I can actually eat a lot of in the form of unsweetened dried coconut and coconut oil. So that’s perfectly fine with me! The Daniel Fast isn’t too much of a departure from our typical whole-foods, plant-based, organic diet. The only differences for us are the inability to eat anything with sweeteners like sugar, honey (which is technically not vegan but we eat it anyway), maple syrup, xylitol, etc.; and the inability to drink anything besides water. I’d sure like a coffee or hot cocoa. I think I’ll have hot cocoa in my coffee on Easter morning.

Easter morning is going to be very exciting for our entire family. Not only will Jonathan and I get to (slowly and carefully) reintegrate foods we’re not eating right now, but we will be getting some little chicks for the kiddos. We’re planning to get chickens that will lay blue/green eggs and chickens that will lay chocolate brown eggs. Of course, we know we won’t have eggs for several months after we get our little chickies, but it will still be fun to care for our little flock in the meantime. Hula Girl is so excited to be able to be the one who feeds and waters the chickens, and Little Man can hardly wait to check for eggs.

Jonathan and I have a lot of work to do between now and May in order to prepare for our new little pets. We plan to keep 8-10 chickens, so we’ll need to build a sizable coop and run. We do intend to let the chickens roam freely in the backyard when we’re home, but we want their run to be large enough that they don’t NEED to be let out to roam daily in case we can’t spend time outside for any reason. We have a ton of scrap wood kindly donated by our neighbor, who works at the steel mill. The folks who manufacture steel goods there lay the products on top of 2x4s, 4x4s, railroad ties, etc., to let them cool. So all the wood has scorch marks on it, but for a chicken coop, it’s great! We have to paint the wood and seal it anyway; we may as well get it for free!

We’re also planning to use some of that wood to expand our garden (again) for this summer. Last year’s garden wasn’t nearly as productive and exciting for us as our gardens have been in the past. We really didn’t have time to work with it and we didn’t grow much food. This year we are planning to grow pretty much every veggie we eat, and lots of each kind, so we can store up food for next winter. It has been getting pretty expensive to feed our family lately, and any little dent we can make in our grocery budget through canning and freezing next fall will be very helpful. I have gotten several books on “homesteading” and food preservation, so I guess I’d better get started on my reading!

Some other things I’m learning about these days include sewing, piano, and calculus. It’s been a rough go for me the past few months as I’ve found myself absolutely bored out of my mind. I’m the type of person who likes to be engaged in learning all the time. When that’s not happening, I get crabby. Like, I want to drive to Mexico JUST BECAUSE I CAN kind of crabby. It’s really not pretty and it makes me feel STUCK. So I’m working to improve my sewing skillz (which is pretty easy to do as I’m just terrible to begin with!), learning to play piano (I can play a scale! yay me!), and learning calculus through a free online class. I guess I just don’t understand it when people say they don’t think they can do something. Like, “Wow, I could never learn XYZ!” I always think, “Why not?” I hope to instill this value in my kids, as it really does leave every opportunity open.

I will tell you my ONE limitation, in case you think I’m just pig-headed and boastful: I will never succeed at anything requiring me to physically look good. Like, I’ll never be a model (I’m 5’3″). I’ll never proudly show off my Jamberry nail wraps (my fingers are cracked and dry from doing housework and even the best lotion just doesn’t heal them completely). I’ll never post an instagram shot of my feet in flip-flops overlooking the ocean (my feet look like hairless hobbit feet; my toes are short and curl over weirdly and my feet are wide and high-arched- a very unattractive combination). Plus, I’m kind of a klutz. Sure, I will dance, but not well. So now you know my limitations, lest you think I’m arrogant.

But seriously, why can’t I learn calculus? Why not?

Also, to keep boredom at bay, I’m gonna blog again. 🙂

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